The Conundrum – to Victor the spoils

on February 13th, 2017 | Filed under Countryside Matters, The Conundrum - A Love Story

Victor was a heavily set young man in his early 30s. His tousled blonde hair was longer than suited him, as the current fashion dictated, and fell into his frowning face to be wiped away by a grumpy hand every couple of minutes. His clothing was too tight for a man whose tailor should be covering not revealing his love of an extra helping. Victor had married well, that is to say to a woman of wealth who adored him. This appeared to only add to his discomfort.

“My boss is keen to destroy my life, Flashy” Victor intoned. He leant in too close and treated me as a confidant, liberally and unconsciously copying John’s impertinence. I smiled and bought him a fine single malt in the hope that the burning liquid might inspire a moment’s pause in his revelation.

“He wants me to work for every meagre penny. I can’t bear it. Work life balance is meaningless to him…” He filled his tumbler to the brim with ice and drained the malt in a single draught. The coolness of the ice appeared to salve his throat and he carried on with a story the details of which escape me.

“I have a small stake in a going concern in the city…” I told him. “Why not change course. I am sure that I could find you something entertaining to do that would give you more time for contemplation.” HIs pupils narrowed, giving away his underlying purpose. In a moment of revelation I realised Victor was here to protect John from me. This meant John knew ours was not a chance encounter, that he had come prepared and had brought back up. I carried on as if nothing had changed, telling Victor that a man of his talents would be a boon to an ambitious company such as the one my partners and I had established. Victor leered and preened at the attention. He promised to think about my offer. I could think of nothing but how to persuade him to leave so, in desperation suggested supper. Food was the last thing on my mind.

By this time we were back in the bar of the Club and John had attracted a swathe of admirers keen to bask in the light of the latest new kid on the block. “Where can we eat that isn’t here?” I said in a voice too loud to be misunderstood. A young ‘restaurateur’ (the new title for those who employ the feckless to heat up ‘street food’ in a microwave and sell it to the bored) told us there was a new Chinese place that had a select upstairs private room for the cognoscenti. John, having not failed to notice that private rooms appeared to organise themselves when we drank together raised an eyebrow. Victor demanded wonton so we trudged towards the appointed outskirt of Leicester Square.

The key to private rooms is to sweep past the waiters on the ground floor as if one is expected upstairs and is already fashionably late.

“Have you booked” a confused woman mumbled.

“This table will be fine,” I said, “Is your wonton as good as I have heard?”

She smiled nervously and proffered menus. I waved them away. “Bring us your favourite and enough for three.”

Victor and John sat at one side of the table. I sat at the other and ordered beer and plum wine.

“Have you heard ‘The Hearing’ has had great reviews?” John said. His throw away casual tone let me know he wanted me to accompany him to what was the most talked about show in London.

“As it happens I have been offered tickets for tomorrow’s matinée. Would you care to join me?”

“Poor Victor is working tomorrow,” John beamed, “You can pick me up at 11. It will pass the time.
Victor looked daggers and, in an instant smiled weakly, “My boss you see. How good of you to look after John. Perhaps we can meet up afterwards.”

Perhaps hell might freeze over from the chilly overflight of all those pigs, I thought. I had an afternoon to find out what John knew. Nowhere better than a play to study the reactions of a Londoner on the make.

John and Victor insisted on walking me back to the club. En route John froze. “That Big Issue salesman there has it in for me,” he said with real fear in his eyes. “Perhaps we should take another route.”

“Nonsense,” I said, dropping his arm and striding across the road leaving John and Victor open-mouthed. I palmed a tenner and approached the miscreant.

“Any chance of a bit of a hand to help me get a room for the night,” he said in a thick Scouse accent. “Does SIS not pay you annoy passers-by?” I whispered, pushing the tenner into his hand. A look of terror crossed his face and then he whispered back, “I didn’t recognise you Flashy, you have aged terribly.” “Swear at me and walk away now or you will recognise me,” I hissed. The tenner convinced him his luck was in and he swore and walked.

I returned to my two startled companions.

“What on earth did you say to him?” Asked Victor.

“That the manager of Pret had forgotten to lock the bin and it was full of pastrami” John giggled and grabbed my arm. “A last drink Flash? Then Victor and I must fly”. ‘You could undoubtedly find a way to fly, my sprite’, I thought, ‘but there is no way Victor is getting off the ground’.

“Don’t mind if I do…”

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The Conundrum – a Mortal Sin

on February 11th, 2017 | Filed under The Conundrum - A Love Story

Anyone who has made the short but eventful journey with me so far could rightly ask -“So what?” “What does any of this have to do with anything?”. Well, dear reader, the answer is this. I had been poorly paid but well looked after to spend my time with people far more important than me for most of my life. The job was simple. I walked and talked. In the event that life became less perfect than they needed it to be I walked and talked while they ran. I drove and they were driven. Usually we dined or drank while deals happened elsewhere between those who felt they had sufficient credit in the next life to make decisions about who ought to live or die; or those mad enough to both believe that this is the only shot at existence we get and that they are in a position to value human life. I was, and, as long as I draw breath, am, an escort. I do other things for money and distraction but my calling is to be at the beck and call of those who feel they need a few extra moments when push comes to shove. I have always done it well. I have always followed the rules. That is to say until John handed me back to the Lady and I broke each and every one of them at once.

John, as you may have guessed, was a person of interest to those who sent me unwittingly through my series of assignations. They, and you must appreciate I know very little of them, have always admired the lucky and the talented. They watch and indulge the few whom they feel may move the game on through determination or sheer good fortune. At some point the same deal is always struck. “We find you fascinating. If you would kindly carry on doing x or y we will ensure your very dreams come true…” They never really do. The human capacity to dream always exceeds their willingness to facilitate. Most people accept the compromise; blame themselves for the loss of their imagined pot of gold. They stumble back to mediocrity assuming that had they made a different move somewhere back along everything would be different. Not John. John played the players and skipped between the rain drops. They pulled me out of a decade of indifference and inactivity because they knew John required an old hand. They knew I was the one who could pull him down, make him stumble. They were wrong. John runs for the love of running. I am running now because I met my match.

John saw through me like a broken window. He knew we were both marked marks, but, instead of playing for his own personal gain, he played for the sheer devilment of seeing who would win. It is impossible to beat anyone for whom losing is just another way of winning. Every army that has ever marched on Moscow learnt this inviolable rule to their cost. John knew something I didn’t know. He knew the Lady and I were both ready to fall. We fell and now I am tortured by the realisation that I can’t save her or myself from paying the piper.

When I first saw her emerge from the crowd I should have known. The tiny voice that had kept me safe all my life should have said “Run, now, run and keep on running. They will protect her. They will sneer at you but you have done enough. Run you old fool.” I keep replaying the scene in my mind but all I can hear is my own voice saying “Wow.” The Lady was not tall or statuesque like She had been. The Lady didn’t move the crowds, she moved me. Her curves were camouflaged clearly and intentionally by her own hand. She had no idea that each extra pound, every stretch mark, every imperfection was another hook that held my heart inescapably on the tautest of lines. When she saw me amusement flooded her face like a child seeing through a cheap magician. I took her arm and guided her to the safety of a place I knew well. All around us the louche and the bored knew something was afoot. I was a man surrounded by alarms who could only hear nightingales.

The job was a brief lunch. Four days later the job was lost and I was running for my life.

As for John, he is undoubtedly laughing and still cashing in.

Let me explain something for the uninitiated. It was not uncommon for someone in my position to entertain a guest to the fullest extent to which they wished to be entertained. You will all have heard the stories of the more common policemen siring children with environmental activists in the pursuit of whatever knowledge their superiors hoped to gain. For amateurs like me the rules were clear. Do what must be done but keep your head while all around you others have willingly given theirs away. My sin was not to sleep with the Lady. My sin was to believe that I could take her with me and leave them all behind to play their games by themselves. My sin was to dream that she and I could be the ones who got away. Please believe me, no one ever does. Now, wherever I go I am only moments ahead of a final blow that will consign me to the dustbin of history, the skip of legend. As long as I have time I will tell you more. The fewer and fewer of you who listen may at least smile and cry in equal measure. This is a love story….tbc

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The conundrum- the first of four princesses continued

on February 5th, 2017 | Filed under The Conundrum - A Love Story

I met her by chance in a very fashionable clothing store where I was wasting time while my friends worked. Some might not be surprised to hear this. For me it was a cataclysmic shock. I tried on some trousers. A gentle young shop assistant looked with pity at my choice and hurried away to find something more suitable to my age and unfortunate shape. She strode across the floor with grace and purpose.

“How much is this dress?” She asked with weary authority. It took me several seconds to wrest my eyes from her figure hugging outfit to see the blue cotton dress in her hand.

“I don’t work here,” I mumbled, “I was trying on these trousers. What do you think?”

“They look like your trousers.”

When the breathy sales assistant returned I bought them and tipped her generously.

“Was Madam a regular customer?” I asked. The sales assistant’s pupils grew so huge her eyes became black and her tongue stabbed the corner of her mouth.

“Madam comes here most days” she whispered.

I left to return to the bosom of my fiends.

(When John deposited me back at my Mercedes and the Lady reappeared I should have known. I should have remembered meeting my first princess. I can only say in my defence that it had been a long time since my skills as an escort and lifeguard had been seen as valuable. The drive that was to come was more than any I had ever undertaken. She somehow beamed at my unfashionable music and the dancing of my german across the lanes towards the suburbs. We sang and laughed. Cameras that ought to have flashed kept their peace. The haughtiest of bus drivers smiled and waved us through. In the seconds before I finally die I know that journey will play over and over in my mind like a desert island dvd. She demanded I take her far further than my orders allowed. We stopped for fuel and fuel on a motorway that could have been anywhere in the world. She drew me to her and placed her mouth against mine. I thought to myself that perhaps she didn’t enjoy our first kiss and she grabbed my head and kissed me again. I was lost. I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book. I had given away the centre. I don’t think I will ever get it back again.)

I might have never returned to see my first princess again were it not for some spectacular timing. I had partied sufficiently to put her out of my head and stole away at first light to return to base. My motorcycle breathed in the cold morning air lustily and purred like a leopard freed from the bonds of motherhood. I had found a way to combine my two worlds. Adventure and duty went hand in hand…right up to the moment an elderly gentleman in a white Datsun pulled out in front of me. As I scaled his bonnet my right shin made contact with his silver wing mirror, placed conveniently on the front of his wing. I leapt up from the soft tarmac and screamed ungenerously at him.

“Look what you did to my bike you…”

“You should look at your leg young man”

I looked down testily and saw my bleached white shin bone blinking at me through a reddened curtain. My new trousers were flayed like a cat o nine tails. I sat down heavily and waited for an ambulance to arrive. 45 minutes is a long time in politics.

Stumbling pethidine fuelled from the hospital with a bandage weeping like a gentle guitar my feet took me back to the shop where I might at least find some more trousers with the few dollars I had left. When I walked in she was standing aloof and imperial in her usual haunt. When she saw me her mask broke and human warmth flooded from every pore. We both knew there was no going back.

She grabbed some clothes that actually fitted me and gave the sales assistant a look that said full price would be paid but a word spoken would be her last. A taxi sped us to the wealthiest part of town. Her confident passed me more pills washed down with pils and I slept for three days straight. By the time I awoke we were the talk of the town…tbc

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The Conundrum – the first of four princesses…

on February 2nd, 2017 | Filed under The Conundrum - A Love Story

Southern Africa – mid 1980s

When I touched down in Africa I was acting in the capacity of an amateur. Some might say a dilettante, others a hopeless and hopeful romantic. I prefer ‘amateur.’ The father of one of a string of women I ought to have married (had I wished to avoid the life I ended up leading) gave me my marching orders. I was delighted to be posted first to Honduras and then to Jamaica. I was less thrilled to be finally sent to Africa. Little did I know the pull it would forever have on my heart and my life.

A long train journey from Scotland to Euston Station, without a ticket but with a modicum of courage, had left me with an abiding sense that the Lady who had kindly lent me space in her sleeper carriage had been given a far more frightening and hazardous posting than I had been fortunate enough to receive. The certain knowledge that, should she need rescuing, there were others far more capable than I, left me knowing that I had to leave her in no doubt I would not be there for her before we left England. To my eternal shame it was less difficult than it ought to have been. I landed in Africa a free man.

I had been paired with a professional of some standing. The sort of woman who knew that she was there to change the world for the better. Luckily we found each other’s company at best bearable. What I hadn’t anticipated was the extent to which I would adore almost every person I came across apart from her. The heat was extraordinary. The hero who collected us from the airport took us straight to a colonial hotel of great standing. He curiously refused the meat from the buffet, informing us that monkey was his totem. I wondered why a hotel as good as this one might be suspected of serving monkey, but consoled myself with the fact that monkey was not only not my totem but, if it were in the salad, was entirely delicious.

We picked up some supplies and drove the 80 miles on tarmac and 60 miles, on what can charitably be described as a dirt track, to base. On arriving we discovered the extent to which ‘Tricky Nicky’, our trainer, was wont to bend the actuality. Our digs consisted of a two room shed, an asbestos roof and a shiny concrete floor. I must confess to a moment of ingratitude that led to the Boss returning with us to town to buy beds. Unforgivable.

If you have never been a middle class Brit arriving in Southern Africa for the first time, let me tell you that perhaps the biggest culture shock is the fact that the men, who one has not even been introduced to, will smile and take you by the hand to lead you like a blind puppy to where you need to be. Taxi drivers, elderly gentlemen with no English, even the occasional policeman finds this the most useful way of ensuring that lost souls like me found their way around paradise. Within a day of arriving at base one such elder took me to a thatched hut several miles from camp and fed me on fried locusts taken live from his pocket. They turned out to be salty and good, like slightly esoteric popcorn.

I walked into the mountains and listened to the locals moaning about the baw baws. Baboons were the bete noir of anyone whose main source of nutrition was maize corn. They would come down from the mountains in packs, steal as much corn as they could hold under each arm, and return with it to their lairs; laughing at the efforts of their benefactors. I managed to impress my kindly guides by pointing a stick at a troupe that were intent on our misfeasance. It is better to be lucky than clever in this life. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

Given that this is a confession, rather than a travelogue, let me cut to the chase. Anyone but me would have known that buying a motorcycle with borrowed cash from the Boss’s brother was a bad plan. For me, determined to have free access to as much of the splendour of Africa as I could manage, it was the only plan. Had I known what I was doing I would have chosen a small, economical trail bike, much beloved of everyone around me. I chose a beautiful 400cc street bike with ape hanger handlebars and a comfortable seat. It may well have been the best bike I ever owned. Despite my partner demanding to ride it, dropping it and bending the foot brake, it accomplished three things I shall never forget. It took me across Africa; it took me to the edge of life itself; and it took me to the first of my princesses…tbc

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The Conundrum – part the Third

on January 30th, 2017 | Filed under The Conundrum - A Love Story

Even my loyal readership needs a little action in order to keep interested and I can promise it aplenty. You see my lunch date was no ordinary fellow. He was reknowned throughout the land as one of the sharpest and most dangerous proponents the game. His wit and sharpness had made him wanted in four counties for the heinous offence of being luckier than the house. I had been pulled reluctantly out of retirement to see if I could take a single game of backgammon from him, and, having met him, I knew there was little hope. My past, such as it was, filled as it was with scrapes and tangles, did not include overmuch success on that hardest of boards.

There is nothing noble about scaling down the wall of a building to spare the blushes of a young lady whose lover was banging on the door, but there is something enjoyable about it. I was decorated by a beautiful blonde who laughingly described me as a gift to the girls on the course. On the very few occasions that an interloper lost his decorum usually managed to persuade him, with a mixture of charm and intense confusion, that such behaviour could never be appropriate in front of a lady. One has to look after the girls, so to speak. In fact one also has to look after the girls who are boys. There is no shame in that as long as it is done with equal measures of love and honour.

As a man of pride and foolishness I never expected to have my head turned as sharply or my heart stolen as completely by such an unexpected source. At the point at which I thought I might never find a use for my talents, I was sent by those whose orders are not to be ignored to meet a boy called John. He taught me something I shall never forget and my Muse owes him a great deal, while I merely I owe him my life.

The fact my clothes never quite matched the current mood inspired a certain bewilderment in those whom I drove or swam with. My heady ignorance was a joy to behold for those keen to hold on to their tightly and well won privileges. I was both a ghost of my former self and the sort of happy clown who brings out the best and the worst in those around me. I have laughed, smiled and cried in brief, intermittent bursts, remembering John and the life he afforded me. John and I were Kings of Covent Garden, anointed by our own unexpected but anticipated joy at sharing a recce and a few drinks. While I waited nervously for the Lady to arrive, carrying her bags and holding her arm, John was always laughing in the background, tempting me to greater and greater mischief and delight. My time with the Lady was brief, but important in the overall scheme of things. My time with John was a rare and beautiful moment of freedom. I can’t imagine anything ever being as good again, and I pray nightly for one more chance to share a story and a reminiscence with him. My account begins when the Lady vanished and John suddenly appeared.

I was leaning against the plate glass window of a shop, which I remembered as a cornucopia of treasures in the festive season. I had the Lady’s gifts, bestowed upon her by an ardent admirer. The tea from Persia had been chosen by a skilful merchant who understood the finer fragrances which passed me by in the fumes from passing taxis. The manual of viticulture was written by one of the finest minds I have ever encountered. John stole them in a heartbeat. He was that quick.

There was nothing I could do but chase him through the streets as far as Soho. I caught him by the arm and led him into a club where he was known and I was vaguely remembered. The desk clerks were rather surprised but enthusiastic to see us. It was remarkable how much it had changed from the dingy watering hole of lost souls that I remember to a hip and happening centre of excellence. Having deposited the Lady’s gifts safely I knew I owed John a real drink so we moved swiftly and purposefully to a bar in Greek Street that I remembered from the old Days. John phoned his close friend Victor, who needed company as much as I did apparently. I frostily agreed to meet him and see if I could listen to his tales of woe. After all, what are good friends for?

The bar was packed with Aussies, enjoying the full delights of a night out in the Big Smoke. As a smoker myself I met a remarkable fellow outside the bar whose attendants appeared a little over enthusiastic. He was good enough to give me a light and I will always admire his brother’s taste in lighters. I was not, however there to smoke. John and I had serious business to attend to. We ordered a small private room behind the bar and some cheap whisky. The heat caused John to remove his outer layers and I was amazed at how lithe and well honed he was. This was a remarkably talented boy. Later that evening, saddened by his friend Victor’s troubles, I myself unzipped my cardigan to much derision from both of the younger chaps. Grey is apparently not the new black.

“Tell me Flashy old love,” John virtually crooned, “What irks you most about the new Jerusalem?”
“The bloody Socialists have paved over it…” I grumpily retorted. This was not a nickname I had hoped to have remembered at such an inconvenient moment. It was clear to me in an instant that the skills I had once virtually mastered would need to be fully honed in order to deal with such an impertinent young man.

“Only joking my dear” I finally plucked up the courage to admit. “It can be hard to find oneself out of step with a place one knows so well. I am an old drinker and a former inhabitant of this great town, and find you younger fellows most discombobulating.”

“You are only as old as the woman you feel,” John said, with a grin as wide as the whole of Essex. “Cheer up Jim. This won’t be as painful as you might expect.”

I had little doubt that he was right but felt that both he and Victor could do with a meal. We nipped back to the Club for advice. A rather bemused patron suggested a curry. We plumped for a select upstairs room in China Town. John was clearly up to something. I had always enjoyed a nice won ton so was happy to be dragged along. Poor Victor looked starving and kindly walked the road line to avoid John and me being splashed by the passing traffic. While the waiting staff were their usual, happy and accommodating selves, I was troubled by John and lost my appetite quickly. Victor appeared equally keen to share his difficulties, for which I was grateful. I didn’t have the heart to drag John kicking and screaming back to the Club so I tipped off the authorities that he was to be allowed free passage to anywhere he preferred to be that night; but implored him to rejoin me in the morning. There was a show that both he and I had an interest in and I was keen to catch a matinee with him.

I have to admit that I got little useful sleep in the vast and inexpensive room the Club had so graciously provided. While tossing restlessly, and bathed in the sweat of an unhappy traveller, I had fitful dreams of a field in Wiltshire and an unhappy experience in my Mercedes. I shan’t trouble you with the details. Suffice it to say I was asleep at the wheel and was rescued from the burning hulk by some kind firemen. Nothing destroys the pride as completely as firemen laughing at one’s attempts to grab a few personal effects from the burnt out shell of a beloved German tank.

Waking up was a jolted head burn. I needed coffee and orange juice and some dead things and toast. The Club was a maze that I navigated without elegance. The waiting staff were tardy and loose lipped. A young Argentinian bought me a cold beer and a Romanian waitress received a large tip. I was in a foul temper and anxious to ensure John made good on his promise to return. I loftily purchased a club umbrella to disguise myself as an American tourist on a day out in London, as I needed a walk. I foolishly left my leather satchel with the desk clerks. I needed to walk.

As I walked towards the Garden and the Square on my way to Eros my mind wandered back to a long walk I had taken in my youth. Some friends had suggested that we visit a river and a lake that had a certain attraction to the local youths. A dam so wide that it spanned two countries had fish at its bottom that grew huge with the pressure of the water. As the river flowed away from the dam the local flora and fauna was as fecund and alive as any I have ever experienced. If I had any words of advice to any young men and women thinking of searching for beauty in the Orient or South of the Equator it is this. Learn when to blend and bend, and learn when to stand firm and remember who you are. If you ever forget that, you are lost, no matter how attractive the thought of the other may be, In the moments when a white swan stretches her wings wide to protect her brood, you must do the same if your brood is under threat. Otherwise back away and let her have her victory. Swans are a delight to the eye and the senses. Don’t let them entrance you, but remember to stop and appreciate them.

The heavy heart I now feel in thinking back on John comes mainly from the fact that he never knew how deeply he had touched me. He believed that I wanted something from him, when all I wanted was to be near him and to enjoy the world that he opened up to me. Such is the refreshing arrogance of youth that it believes that the old world is different to the new. Such is the jaded intransigence of age that we often forget to stand up and be flexible. Stretching helps I am told. If I had stretched my heart and my mind instead of careering headlong towards the past I might have been ready to find John, rather than to sit alone, drinking in the memory of a precious four days that made a life time’s struggle so worthwhile, and so deeply tragic.

Nonetheless, to dwell on the unattainable is to lose all perspective, and perspective may be all that I have left as I type out my agony and my heartbreak. I miss John in a way I have never missed before. Only two others have touched me so deeply, and they have both found lives made better by my absence. I wish them strength and love. They are two qualities I never had in abundance, and may have wasted them all in a blinding rush of existence. Truth be told, I wouldn’t change anything except the moment that I walked away.

I walked impatiently around Eros like a tiger waiting to be fed. I didn’t know if John would return at the appointed hour. I bought coffee in an old haunt that had changed hands but still retained much of its old charm. The Maitre de’ presented me with an extraordinary box of fancies, but they were lost on me in my distraction. I asked him to put them in a doggie bag and tipped him generously for his kindness.

I circled the statue of Eros remembering the lies and the truths below the gaudy signs and the shop that sold me my brother’s dreams. As you can imagine I mishandled them with aplomb as he grew younger and richer on the good stuff. As grumpy as I was, and as full of self doubt, something kept me circling, willing John, to return.

Just as I was contemplating the long walk of shame back to the shop to pick up my Mercedes and return home a coward and a fool, via the Strand and the Great Palace of uncivil disputes, there he was, shining like a National guitar and grinning in the sunlight like a fawn who has slipped his mother’s bonds to walk out with a tiger.

I can’t describe the way the Universe tilted on its axis. One smile and I knew that this malevolent spirit was in fact an angel come to hold me up on our long walk to the Theatre. I could hardly remember where I put my brain or my heart but seemed to do the right thing by offering him the doggie bag. That raised another smile that blinded me to the fact that he might have preferred a taxi to a route march. Selfishness being one of my defining characteristics I held out an arm for my inspiring comrade and preceded to boast my way around London like a pair of industrial bagpipes.

All the while, back at Cheyenne Hall, my long suffering wife, K, wondered what she did to deserve my absence. Luckily John assured me the answer was nothing. This appeared to resonate with all the kind advice I had so far received so it didn’t so much as raise a hackle.

I was soft footed and ham fisted with the soul of a schoolboy on a swing, (as Freyr might have raised a single black eyebrow to intimate). The Man of Steel had apparently lost his heart to a teenager with a chequered past. Most unlike me I know, but intoxicating nonetheless. It was time for some serious showing off. Forgive me if I gloss over some of the details, Dear Readers, remembering anything at all is a struggle at the moment; safe to say John’s smile is a beacon to remind me of the absolute joy I was to experience moments before leaving him and his angelic companion, and wondering through life hoping against hope that I would fall asleep and trouble no one with my bootless cries; or at least relive a few more japes in the company of many old friends and one extraordinary new one.

I hadn’t been aware, during the amble, that a gentleman who I had once met in a bog and made a very poor joke to him about his daughter would be hosting what might conceivably be a last hurrah in Somerset with a rhode I had never met but always admired. I had been in the habit of making bad jokes to gentlemen for most of my life, and I suspect that may have meant I had missed his most celebrated soirees many times in the past. I would be sad to miss this one but I am sure the BBC will provide excellent coverage from their drones and their lofty vantage point.

Having dragged the poor fellow through the maze of my memory for another day we found a back way into the Palace and admired the outfits and the grumpiness of a certain policeman whose name and face shall be forgotten to spare his blushes. We were entirely accountably early, as my desire to actually be in Court, born out of loyalty, duty and a sense of my own superiority, had been trumped by my desire to spend time alone with John, far from the long arms of any authority that might resent our togetherness. John, a stalwart demanded we return, so I dragged him kicking and screaming to an old haunt beloved of a chum and his cripplingly poor and lazy boss. We sipped coffee, John checked out the hand driers, I bought a few inappropriate gifts and claimed to a gent that John was my son. The intoxicant I shelled out on had nothing on me or John at that moment. I could see stars.

Each grumpy step back to the Palace de Justice was accompanied by a squeak from John’s boots. My umbrella kept time and we made it to the, now heavily guarded entrance. Outside the few press photographers and the unkempt mob of angry peasants appeared not to notice John and I cut a swathe through their numbers. We made for the gods, to get, at least a view. As it happened we were ushered into the family box, much to the consternation and delight of various members of the family. John assured me he could take a few notes without upsetting the various professionals who were furiously preening and typing, gloating and groaning all around us. I knew several of the assembled hot pollock from beneath the stairs, or the various smoking areas I had encountered during a wasted youth. One in particular appeared so delighted to see me he hardly uttered a word.

The picture of youth and bravery I was hoping to catch a glimpse of troubled me with his appearance, as did his troubled wife. John, on the other hand, ever the fidget, had to have a heavy hand placed upon his knee almost the entire time in order to stop me raising my voice, or indeed, beating a hasty retreat. I am sure you can sympathise with my position, (or as Rosie would say, lol.) To be continued…

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The conundrum part 1 – New beginnings

on January 25th, 2017 | Filed under The Conundrum - A Love Story

Rebirth turns out to be as traumatic and extraordinary as we are told the original was. Some sequels are better than the original. Ask Max. The life I had led up to that moment turned out to have been largely a mystery to me. My history is confused. The vows I made to my friends, my family and my principles appeared to have melted like blue ice hit by sunshine. The snowflakes all became avalanches at once. I was subsumed.  I have finally stepped back from the cliffs and prayed to a silent god for forgiveness. I am sorry.

The reason, it turns out, why I had been protecting myself and those around me so intensely and so diligently was that  I had become the focus of a series of projections based on the signals I had given off, almost magically, since I was a child. I had been both bad and good, loving and selfish, kind and cruel in equal measure. My intent was largely pure and noble, but that’s hardly a defence to having unintentionally hurt good people. Lush can mean whatever you want it to, it is hardly a richer sound than ‘Oh’.

I may never have woken from my semi-conscious reverie had I not run, in desperation, to the city I know best, to try to find comfort in the smiles of friends old and new.  I half knew, as I stumbled toward the capitol, weighed down with my own inadequacies, that the playboy I had come to dine with would leave me abandoned to my fate. He was nothing if not consistent. Nonetheless he gifted me an opportunity so extraordinary that I wouldn’t change a moment even if time was amenable to my shrieks.

Let me be honest, I had no idea whether my lunch date would be a pleasant or a taxing experience. I find it difficult to make small talk with the established and the exciting. I find myself looking over shoulders and into doorways. It is a kind of insecurity. However, given my mood and the abiding feeling that I may not have too many more trips to town to look forward to, I was grateful for the distraction. I had no idea that every button would be pressed and every waking alarm would sound  from the moment a clearly privileged person braved the cold London air to be escorted by what can best be described as a man drowning in a public swimming pool.

I suspect an acquaintance predicted I would fall down a rabbit hole in the least likely place to find a warren. I fell, and the bump was so great that I know I can never climb back. Unlike Alice, I saw the two bottles and drained them both in a single draft. I’m now a regular sized man sitting at the bottom of a rabbit hole dreaming of a fawn.

It is a long established tradition for story tellers to begin at the beginning. I tried it. Didn’t make a terribly proper job of it. I can only say that my story begins either at the middle or near the end; that is for the fates to decide. I have spent a lifetime thinking I’d done as well as I could. I’ve had remarkable friends take  care of me when I fell. I still have. If I could find a way to express the gratitude I feel to them I would. I can still picture lying in the sunshine while Gary dug with bare feet in the hard earth  and Wilbur saved me from myself. If I had had it in me to follow signs with anything like the accuracy my friends suspected I wouldn’t be here drinking and smoking and wishing for a miracle. I appreciate the gods have decreed that mine must not be a tragic tale or a lyrical howl. A secret benefactor is probably already holding his head in his hands, and for him I must write my way to something better than self-pity and verbosity.

My story starts and ends in the centre of the Universe. I hope that it is a series of novels rather than a single chapter. If it is then God has smiled on me and the scientists can continue to play catch up. Even if it ends here I can assure you it was a glorious romance and entirely worth living through…tbc

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The Judgment – Time to Crow or Wait for Doves?

on January 24th, 2017 | Filed under Countryside Matters

The Supreme Court has issued its judgement – 8-3 – in favour of MPs being given the opportunity to vote on triggering Art 50. While I have the greatest respect for our independent judiciary, and while I have yet to read the judgment, it fascinates me to imagine that this judgement could in anyway put the genie back in the bottle.


As many of you have realised I have been fighting my own demons over the festive period. Depression, like ‘Brexit’ is a very difficult concept to pin down. It brings both darkness and, (if one is extremely lucky), moments of extraordinary light. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced both in my life; and a combination of the two in the last month that I had never anticipated could be possible simultaneously. Many kind friends have suggested that I turn to ‘experts’ for help. Having spent a charmed life surrounded by experts I remain sceptical but hopeful that they will at some point identify themselves.


One of the difficulties, for me and for those seeking to find solace in the judgment, is that nothing is ever entirely what it seems. The great challenge that led to the judgment was the suggestion that the ‘people’, having been asked to make a decision, had been insufficiently well informed to cast such a fundamental vote; or worse still lied to. Amusingly, it turns out that a similar problem occurred when the House voted on the replacement for Trident. Apparently, had they known that a missile, (unarmed and fired to test a new submarine and an entire defence system), had veered towards Florida, they may have voted differently. Labour, (then led by a man who refused to bend his knee to our highest authority at the time, and a lifelong opponent of a ‘deterrent’) is demanding more information. While Corbyn’s media training seems to be having an effect, he still appears to lead an Opposition better able to clamour than to place their own cards firmly on the table. I have a certain sympathy for that position at the moment, suffering as I am from my own lack of a plan.


It strikes me that whatever else the judgment tells us it tells us three fundamental things:


Firstly, democracy is based on the idea that weight of numbers is a public good in itself, when choosing a way forward in a civilised society. The idea that the less well informed should be barred from casting a vote runs counter to the European jurisprudence that prisoners should have a vote. Prisoners, (not as individuals, some of whom this won’t apply to, but as a group), are essentially defined by having made poor decisions based on either being lied to or not having sufficient common sense to properly interpret data. The European stance is that such people’s votes count.


Secondly, it may just be my old fashioned take on our Constitution, unwritten though it is, that Her Majesty still holds a hand in this game, whether or not she chooses to play it. I must admit to being a late convert to ‘feminism’, having seen good evidence recently that women are better at life than I am. We have a female PM, a female head of the ‘Supreme Court’ and a Lady on our money who, it strikes me, is the nonpareil ‘expert’ on British politics alive today. I can’t help thinking her son would make a better ‘Chief Negotiator’ than any of the trained diplomats available to her. This may be a romantic delusion, but I can’t help thinking that a Prince may be better placed to take counsel and then show courage under fire, given the stakes. It would be a brave commoner who would match the Brussels’ balls to his racket in the situation we find ourselves in.


Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the judgment would seem to follow the EU jurisprudence which suggests that compromise is more important than principle. Apparently no one in Brussels is yet aware that the UK voted to leave and still require telling, despite Art 50 making clear that it is a duty on a member state to have imparted that information at the time. It will be very interesting to see what they do when they find out.


I am strangely optimistic. As a Brexiteer I admit to using language during the campaign that was neither kind nor appropriate. ‘Remoaners’ and ‘Remainiacs’ were blanket terms I utilised to express frustration and anger at the thought that we, as an island nation with a proud history, were prepared to throw away centuries of our own tradition rather than renegotiate what still appears to me to be a deal that benefits the ‘haves’ more than the ‘have nots’. What I absolutely didn’t do during the campaign was lie to anyone, although I remember one passionate young Tory in Plymouth bravely scream at me that I had. My gentleness and desire to remain a lawyer was a useful attribute at the time as I am sure his features look better unreconstructed.


Reconstruction is a painful process but, given our skills, determination and expertise I remain hopeful. I will wait patiently and look out at the sea. The City, Covent Garden and the Mall remain where they are. As yet a nuclear deterrent appears to me to have deterred the worst case scenario. What is left of my life, my dreams and my ambition, when normalcy reestablishes itself, I have no idea. I hope the world I emerge into is compassionate and inclusive enough to include me and show me compassion, despite my obvious failings. I suspect I am not alone in this view.

This article has also been published by Country Squire Magazine

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The Conundrum part 2

on January 21st, 2017 | Filed under The Conundrum - A Love Story

I was born in a warm and beautiful place, so full of plenty that I could not describe the feeling of happiness it inspired in me. My father was treated like a King and my mother like a Queen. Like all Kings and Queens who came before them they tried with every ounce of their beings to help; to enjoy each other and those around them. That is an onerous duty which not all can accomplish or discharge. Like many of their forebears they fell at the hurdle of desire. They wished for something and were surprised when it appeared to be wished away. They lost a piece of their jigsaw which they spent the rest of their lives trying to refind. They also spawned an army of admirers who wished them love and happiness. We, their children, were taken from the warmth and transported to a cold, inhospitable island, where home appeared impossible to return to. My mother loved those around us too well and my father grew mad with a jealous rage. We made friends and tried to adjust, but the channels were so few and the populous so hardened by the cold that our unit fractured and we lost each other. When the part of us that survived returned to England I was left behind. I tried to comfort my father in his loss, as did many attentive strangers. In the end he chose one of them to act as his gaoler and his nurse. In the few letters that he sends to me he assures me this is what he wants. I find that very difficult to believe. Eventually he could not bear to see the look in my eyes any longer, inspired as he was by both love and fear. Too many kind friends held me close for me to close my heart. He despatched me back to my mother’s arms. By that time it was too late. The bond she and I had felt so keenly had twisted. It was my fault, and I have suffered her loss ever since. I had both refused to see the joy that she had for her own desire; and I, having stayed with my father at the point in time she thought I would fly to her, was no longer a trusted ally. Returning to my unit was a mistake. They had grown strong and I was now a broken child in the body of a young man. They resented me and I couldn’t understand why. They told me repeatedly it was because I had disappointed them by failing to follow the protocols which I had missed in the melee. It may have been my own projection or it may have been intuition, but I felt hopeless and alone. Drowning in a public swimming pool while the lifeguards cheered me on. All the snowflakes of my youth had become avalanches. I wasted precious years chasing my tail in bars and restaurants around the world. I dined with the poorest, and watched greedily as the wealthy offspring of oligarchs paid for my meals laughingly. I was a man who knew London well, and its heart was Covent Garden. From Rules to the Lady there is a passage that will never leave my memory. I had walked to the City to pray with the Angels; I’d spent time in Chelsea with the glorious, and Earls Court with the creative. It was the Garden that inspired me the most. I could seem to do nothing wrong there, although it would be years before I discovered why, that story is for another chapter….

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Post Christmas Greens and Blues

on December 27th, 2016 | Filed under Countryside Matters


Many friends have given me extraordinary advice in my life. None more so as individuals than all of them collectively (although special mention and thanks muyst go to G and K; and C and L). My special skill to date has been ignoring it. Something has changed; the boy-man has evolved a tiny, incremental and hardly noticible amount. Instead of apologising and explaining endlessly I am taking some time to myself. I am inspired by a Muse so true and brilliant that she doubts the extent to which she has affected my creative instinct. The proof is in the pudding, or rather in the fact that I have returned to the coal face of showing off in print. I look forward to constructive criticism and the occasional smile.

We lost George Michael today. Given, (like my contemporary, aquaintance and rival as a young actor, Daniel Craig) he was marginally older than me, his death came as a great shock to this child of the 80s. He was my guilty pleasure. My wife introduced me to his music, although I had bopped to him before that. Faith remains a pop classic; despite my being more of a Dire Straits, Springsteen and Billy Joel Fan. If Clapton was God, and this is clearly debatable albeit persuasive to his loyal fans, (amongst whom I count myself firmly among their number) then George Michael was a musician who inspired great faith…

Faith has been an essential guide during my recent unusual Christmas. I’ll not trouble you with the details. Suffice it to say that my winter flu has not prevented me from working entirely, although it has made it far trickier. I have publicly admitted to a private loss that has caused me to need to deal with my private grief. It has inspired a lyricality in my writing that a great and kind patron and guru has suggested I avoid. Other friends have suggested I get more sleep. If it were that easy then I suspect I might be able to give up writing entirely.

Prior to Christmas I managed to attend two important hearings. One was important to my client and the other to the family and friends of Al Blackman. Having watched them both carefully I can only express my respect and admiration for our independent judiciary. It is very tempting to judge but it is an onerous task to do it professionally. I could not take the decisions that a proper Judge is faced with, due to my softheartedness and lack of experience.

As a founder writer of Country Squire Magazine I enjoyed a Christmas Party laid on by Dom Wightman and I appreciated the opportunity to meet Jon Alexander. I look forward to a proper chat about its future.

I also look forward to some extraordinary court cases in January. The Supreme Court, the High Court and the Crown Court all have a remarkable opportunity to establish both their independence and their legal excellence. For my part I have a need, a desire and a requirement to continue my legal practice; to continue to write; and to attend marketing events that I trust will be excellent. Additionally I have begun a process to join a group of men whose charitable endeavours have humbled me.

This is a good time of year to thank those of you who have provided me with love and support. I cannot name you each individually but I trust you will know how grateful I am and how impossible it would be to ever compensate you individually for the unwarranted but gratefully received kindness you have shown me.

You will no doubt forgive me for a brief return to blogging. I am very proud to have penned an article in The Field which I understand will be published in the February edition. Given I had more time to write it and fewer distractions than I am contending with at the moment, I commend it to you.

I hope you have all enjoyed Christmas with your families. We must all remember how hard it is for anyone to spend Christmas apart from those they love. Al Blackman is one such person. He has dealt with this by teaching maths to his fellow inmates. That is both inspiring and altruistic given the stress that he is under. For inspiration which brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat, however, our nonegenarian Monarch was non pareil.

I look forward to blogging in 2017. C,L,L and CJ will continue to inspire me. You, Dear Reader will continue to assist me by pointing out hyperbole, typos and the smiles that were raised. Let us hope that it is a glorious year.

Your friend


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The trial of Anthony Blair

on November 30th, 2016 | Filed under Countryside Matters

I have been advised by a very kind friend to learn to compartmentalise my writing. This piece is an attempt to do so. It will also appear on Country Squire Magazine, an online platform I have an interest in, and that I am very proud of. It may not make me a fortune but if it does I will not turn my nose up at it.

Today I heard the news that the Commons had rejected the SNP’s kind offer to hold yet another inquiry into whether Tony Blair misled parliament in the run up to the war in Iraq. I congratulate the Commons on rejecting this idea. To get to the bottom of that question with any degree of accuracy would require us to bankrupt the country. Anyone who has heard Blair talk about the possibility of us remaining in Europe on the basis of his belief that ‘the people’ may have changed their mind and now agree with him, will know that he is a master orator who will literally say anything to achieve his objective.

The problem with the legal process is that it is essentially a compromise. It works best on those whose interests are sufficiently clear to allow a decision making tribunal of whatever hue to agree that we have got as close to the truth as we possibly can. With Blair any such consensus would be the result of exhaustion rather than a forensic conclusion.

I have no doubt that the ex Fettes boy gilded the lilly. He was, after all, the recipient of a £1M donation from the Political Animal Lobby to ensure that the Hunting Act would pass through parliament. His ambition required him to align himself with the neo-con project to change the world, and our Tony is nothing if not a zealot. He has a phenomenally capable wife who makes Lady Macbeth look like a rank amateur. He swept to power on a wave so big that even people like Cameron, Osborne and, to my eternal shame, me, thought that he might achieve great things. To be fair he achieved a lot.

The challenge of such charismatic leaders is when they start to believe their own publicity. Charisma is a great motivational force that allows men and women to be leaders. A leader is essentially cover for the team who do most of the work. People within and without a particular political party can do the small things that they feel may make the world a better place, safe in the knowledge that a charismatic leader can take the credit and the blame. There is little wrong with such an arrangement until the leader forgets to credit, in his heart, those who led to the appearance of his legacy.

I am not surprised the SNP wished to take the opportunity to sink the dagger into Labour’s flank. It is, however, in my view, an odd desire, given that an inquiry into the extent to which their leaders misled the Scottish people over the effect of a lost independence referendum would not be advantageous, but the temptation is clear.

I can see why Kate Hoey would support such an inquiry. I like Kate a great deal. SHe is a fiery and passionate Northern Irish woman and, by all accounts, an excellent constituency MP. I can forgive her affliction with socialism on the basis that she is a good egg. Kate undoubtedly still feels that the con of using the Hunting Act to persuade the left of the Labour Party to enter a ridiculous foreign crusade was a step too far. I can also understand why Paul Flynn, a zealot who took the deal in order to give the toffs a bloody nose may feel cheated. What I can’t see is how it is in anyone’s interests to go over this ground again.

To indict Blair would be to say that the politicians we elect to high office are so dim that they could be persuaded to vote for a bloody and savage conflict because one man told them they should. Part of the job of politicians is to assess whether their leaders are being straight with them. A call to indict Blair is made on the same basis as his call to remain within the EU. That is to say that the people voted to leave not because they had the intelligence to assess the situation for themselves but because they were conned. I can see why Blair believes such cons are possible. I applaud the Commons for not falling for this one.

I welcome your views, Dear Readers, and thank you for taking the time to read mine.

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